South Carolina Stuns 10th-Ranked Colorado State in Opening Round of NCAA Tournament
The Gamecocks ended the nation's longest win streak and move on to the second round for the second-straight year
SEATTLE, WASH. – South Carolina volleyball picked up the biggest upset of the 2019 NCAA tournament Friday night, stunning No. 10 Colorado State (29-2) in five sets. The Gamecocks (20-11) ended the Rams’ 28-game win streak and will move on to face the winner of No. 9 Washington and Winthrop on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET. This is the highest-ranked opponent South Carolina has defeated since Sept. 17, 2006, when it took down No. 6 Florida.
Mikayla Robinson led the team with 16 kills and a .481 hitting percentage, and Mikayla Shields added 15 kills – the last of which sealed the team’s win.
SET ONE: The tenth-ranked Rams held the momentum early, building a modest lead that would only top out at three points, 11-8. After hanging around, the Gamecocks were able to use a 3-0 run to take their first lead of the match at 13-12 and led 15-14 at the media timeout. That run extended out to an 8-3 advantage for the Gamecocks, forcing the Rams to take a timeout trailing 18-15. South Carolina held the first set point at 24-20, but Colorado State pushed back with five unanswered points to give the Rams a chance to steal the win.
An attacking error for CSU ended the run and tied the score at 25, and Mikayla Shields powered home her fourth kill of the set to give the Gamecocks another set point chance. Claire Edwards made sure they wouldn’t waste it, dropping a short top spin serve in front of the defense for the clinching point at 27-25. Shields and Mikayla Robinson finished with the team lead for kills in the set, with four, and Britt McLean added three kills without an error on five swings. The Gamecocks, facing the nation’s number-one-ranked defense for hitting percentage, out-hit Colorado State .268 to .190 in the game.
SET TWO: The second set followed a similar story as the first, but it would be the Rams that flipped the script on the way to a 25-17 final that evened the match. South Carolina held an early lead at 13-11, after four lead changes and eight ties, but Colorado State scored six of the next seven points to grab the lead for good and closed with a 14-4 run. The Rams won the set behind the service line, with three aces paired with four errors from the Gamecocks. Outside of aces, CSU’s servers kept Carolina out of system on offense and the Ram hitters were able to transition for kills to push away down the stretch.
SET THREE: Colorado State was able to claim the lead at the start of the third, running up a 13-9 advantage before Mikayla Robinson took control. The middle totaled four kills in a run that would end with a 17-all tie, and a big run behind the service line from Courtney Koehler keyed the team from there. The senior setter took over serve at 19-19, and the Gamecocks scored five unanswered points to set up set point. Colorado State tried to recapture the same luck it had in set one and scored the next three points, but a tremendous defensive rally from South Carolina set up Shields for the clinching kill in a 25-22 final.
SET FOUR: The Gamecocks found themselves in a big hole early, and were unable to overcome an early 14-7 deficit in a 25-14 final that would send the match to a fifth set. Carolina would be able to work its way back to three points, 17-14, before Colorado State made the final push for the final margin. The Rams held a 17-7 advantage in kills and out-hit Carolina .483 to .095, with Shields’ three kills leading the Gamecocks.
SET FIVE: The Ram net defense staked them to an early lead, getting three early blocks to get a 5-1 lead and force Carolina into a timeout. The Gamecocks were able to get within two, 9-7, but weren’t able to string together the points they needed. Colorado State went ahead 14-12, but Koehler and Robinson were able to deny the first match point with a block, and the Rams hit the ball out on the next play to tie the set for the first time since it was 1-1.
A kill from McLean gave the Gamecocks their first match point at 15-14, but the Rams were able to win a joust at the net to side-out. McLean struck again, but Carolina was again denied the win at 16-15. Colorado State tied the set at 16, but committed a service error on the following play and Mikayla Shields iced the upset with her 15th kill of the night.
- This is South Carolina’s sixth trip to the second round in nine tournament runs. The Gamecocks have never advanced to the Sweet 16.
- The Gamecock offense finished the night hitting .255, despite facing a Colorado State team that came into the tournament holding opponents to a .104 hitting percentage – the lowest in the nation. The Rams had not allowed an opponent to hit above .250 in a match since Aug. 31.
- Courtney Koehler’s 42 assists moved her up to fourth place in the program’s all-time history for a career. The senior’s new total of 3,636 moves her past Julie Morrison (1984-87). She also cracked 1,000 assists for the season, with her total of 1,004 moving her up to seventh for the most in a single season in the rally-scoring era.
- Koehler also added 11 digs for her sixth double-double of the season, 23rd of her career.
- Mikayla Robinson’s .481 hitting percentage is the second-highest efficiency rate for a Gamecock hitter in the program’s NCAA tournament history.
- Addie Bryant had a tremendous match, finishing with 17 digs and countless other hustle plays to save balls flying into the stands. Bryant now has 423 digs for the season, moving her up to sixth for most in a single season in the rally-scoring era.